|Home | Sign Online Petition | Download Petition | View Signatures | Forest News AFA Photo Gallery | Ancient Forest Alliance Site|
British Columbia Ancient Forests News
Forestry Union President Calls on NDP to Protect BC Forests & Forestry Jobs
January 28, 2018
Doug Donaldson understands better than most how neglected B.C.’s forests are, and how that neglect is mirrored in troubling job losses and missed employment opportunities in rural towns and First Nations communities.
As B.C.’s forests minister, he is also the MLA for the vast Stikine riding where Highway 37 is a gateway to old-growth forests that have been logged for decades with one goal in mind: to strip them of their trees and send virtually every log out of the province, in raw, unprocessed form.
Donaldson’s riding is also home to a mothballed pulp mill, idled sawmills and troublingly few value-added mills, including one — Kyahwood Forest Products — that is First Nation-owned, employs mostly First Nation people from the small community of Moricetown and that ought to be the norm in B.C., not the exception.
Donaldson knows all of this. He also knows that just 10 days after Premier John Horgan named him to cabinet, the Somass sawmill in Port Alberni closed, ending good-paying jobs for 80 people at a mill whose history traces to the 1930s.
Western Forest Products, which put those people out of work, is B.C.’s biggest coastal forest company and a major exporter of raw, unprocessed, old-growth logs.
Donaldson and his NDP colleagues were silent on Somass’s closure. In contrast, just months earlier, Horgan travelled to a recently closed sawmill in Merritt, where against a backdrop of a large sign reading, Closed by Christy Clark, he lashed out at the Liberals for failing to help a “community in distress.”
Well the time for posturing is over. Horgan is premier. He and his forests minister, whose file now includes “rural development,” must act. It’s up to them to lead on the forestry and rural-revitalization files.
Were it not for the efforts of my union, at least one other sawmill in the same riding that includes Port Alberni would be down by now. We see no signs of action from the government. What is its plan, if any?
During the last term of the Liberal government, more raw logs left B.C. than at any other four-year span in the province’s history. In 2016 alone, enough unprocessed logs left the province to frame 134,000 homes. More troubling, we see that de facto log exports are regularly occurring in the Interior of the province, where “have” regions become the sources of logs for the “have-nots.” The Merritt mill closure was partly caught up in that ugly reality.
Perpetuating the status quo translates into a wholesale assault on our coast’s diminished forests, rural communities and First Nations, a reality that Scott Fraser, Port Alberni’s MLA and Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation, understands better than most.
Donaldson, Fraser and all their cabinet colleagues have signed mandate letters that explicitly commit them to implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
I’ve read that document. I see what’s happening on First Nation lands. I know that we can and we must do better as an industry and as a society by bringing First Nations into true partnerships with resource industries. But I’m starting to seriously wonder whether the same can be said of this government.
It’s time for bold action by government, driven by a vision of what is socially, economically and ecologically just. Here’s what my union believes is possible and that’ll have the ultimate support of many First Nations, environmental organizations and some forest companies:
More old-growth forests protected. An end to raw-log exports. Increased forest-industry employment based on getting greater value from every log we cut, rather than shipping it off in unprocessed form. New, First Nation-area-based tenures that anchor new joint ventures where First Nations are majority partners.
By staying silent on mill closures and allowing raw-log exports to continue unchecked, our government is allowing our pockets to be fleeced.
Last year, Horgan tried to exploit the Merritt mill closure to his political advantage. Today, the buck stops with him, Donaldson, Fraser and the rest of the NDP cabinet.
Staying silent in the face of more mill closures, more forest depletion and continued failure to reconcile with First Nations isn’t an option.
Arnold Bercov is president of the Public and Private Workers of Canada.
Click here to view the original story.